News / Africa

Nigeria's New Cabinet Tasked With Aggressive Agenda

Nigeria's new cabinet ministers take the oath of office in Abuja on 06 Apr 2010
Nigeria's new cabinet ministers take the oath of office in Abuja on 06 Apr 2010
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Goodluck Jonathan is only an acting president, but by naming a new Cabinet he has made clear he will not simply serve out the last year of President Umaru Yar'Adua's term.

This is now Mr. Jonathan's government, until the ailing president returns to power or voters choose a new leader next year.

Mr. Jonathan told his new ministers that he is expecting "bold steps" to improve Nigeria's infrastructure, fight corruption, and secure the gains of an amnesty for Niger Delta militants.

"You must hit the ground running," said Jonathan.  "Time is of fundamental essence and no distraction in our mission will be tolerated.  This is a patriotic call to service and the self must therefore take a back-seat.  This rare privilege must not be abused," he said.

The new Cabinet includes a new finance minister, a new foreign minister and Nigeria's first female oil minister as well as several hold-overs from the previous Cabinet, including the former information minister.

Nigeria's new finance minister is former Goldman Sachs managing director Olusegun Aganga.  He will brief the acting president every two weeks on efforts to speed Nigeria's development, which Mr. Jonathan says is the most important task in the life of the nation.

Nigerian Bar Association General Secretary Ibrahim Mark says Aganga's experience will help shake-up the Finance Ministry.

"The man is a success in the private sector.  We need such people.  He will not be bogged down with the civil service structure," he said.

In a speech to the Nigerian community in London last year, Aganga spoke of how his generation lost the commitment of those who fought for independence.

"As Nigerians, you must understand that we are all part of that problem," said Aganga.  "And it is important for you and I to step out and be part of the solution and take responsibility to drive the much needed transformation our country and our continent needs today," he added.

In Africa's largest oil-producer, Aganga said it is not a question of resources but rather how those resources are used.

"The assets are there, and all we need is good managers to manage those assets and generate consistent, strong and positive returns," he said.

Aganga said this generation of Nigerian leaders must show they can make a difference.

"It is important that we make the move from being successful to being significant.  It is important that we make the move from blaming the system to actually taking responsibility," he said.

Acting President Jonathan expects his new finance minister to oversee a much-delayed federal budget and push ahead with the end to consumer fuel subsidies.  He has also committed himself to comprehensive electoral reforms before next year's vote.

Bar Association Secretary General Mark says the biggest challenge is the make up of the electoral commission.

The Obama administration says Nigeria's elections chief should be replaced.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson says Washington believes Independent National Election Commission chairman Maurice Iwu had proven himself inadequate in overseeing a 2007 vote that Carson says was "deeply flawed."  He told reporters that if Nigeria is to improve its elections "it probably needs to consider improving the level of management at the top."

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